Many of the failures named above may be due to a trucking line not obeying big truck laws in Texas and the United States.
Like everyone else, truck drivers are required to follow specific laws and rules. This is to ensure the safety of themselves, everyone else on the road and the transit of their cargo.
What are some important trucking laws which drivers and their employers must obey? Many involve rules of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). These include:
Commercial driver’s license
Anyone who operates any commercial vehicle such as a tractor trailer truck is required by law to have a commercial driver’s license. Beyond that, each type of commercial vehicle requires specific training. Trucking lines and their trucker employees must comply.
All truck drivers are required to get operational approval from their primary physicians. If a driver has a severe medical condition that’s not under control, it can be dangerous for them to operate a commercial vehicle.
For instance, a medical exam would reveal if a driver was subject to seizures or other maladies which could suddenly make it difficult if not impossible to drive. Such medical exams can protect not just the driver, but others on the road.
Strict hours of service
Truck drivers must drive only a certain amount of hours a day and should not exceed that limit. Otherwise, truckers may suffer from severe fatigue which can contribute to a catastrophic injury crash.
Truckers and truck lines are required to keep service records to avoid this, but sometimes the trucking company or truck driver fail to do so. Or perhaps they deliberately “cook the books” to make it appear the driver is complying with time restraints on service, when that is not the case.
Under Texas trucking laws, a driver must have eight consecutive hours off-duty before beginning a shift. Then the driver may be on duty for 15 consecutive hours maximum, including no more than 12 consecutive hours at the wheel of a big rig.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration allows up 14 hours on duty and up to 11 consecutive hours at the wheel, both followed by a minimum of 10 hours of rest.
Load size and weight
Truck drivers must adhere to strict guidelines on the size and weight of their loads. For instance, the maximum weight that a truck can haul, including the vehicle itself, is 80,000 pounds.
But each truck is different, and some can haul more — or less — than others. If a truck is overloaded and overweight for its size, that can cause an accident.
That’s why truckers are required to make frequent stops at weighing stations to ensure that they are proceeding within size and weight regulations.
The Texas Department of Motor Vehicles sets the size and weight limits for various kinds of big rigs. These include the 80,000 pound legal limit for any vehicle and its cargo.
The Texas Department of Public Safety even has its own Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Service to work toward greater highway safety in regard to commercial vehicles. Its responsibilities include weighing and checking commercial vehicles.
Prior to any work shift, the truck driver must do an inspection. That’s to prevent any possible accidents such as a tire blowout. Trucking companies also are required to do regular truck inspections. If these were done even more often, many accidents could be avoided.
Drivers also are required by federal regulations to inspect their truck before beginning any trip. Such truck inspections should evaluate the truck’s wheels, tires, brakes, axles, steering, lights, coupling devices, fuel systems and airlines and compressors.
Daily vehicle inspection reports also must be done at the end of a journey. And if any equipment has flaws or dangerous defects, the driver is required to report those to the trucking company or motor carrier immediately.
These reports may become valuable evidence if it’s determined that poor maintenance contributed to a truck accident. If a defect was known but not corrected, the truck line has greater liability.
Like the drivers of many other vehicles, truck drivers today may be reading or sending texts while at the wheel, even though that’s in clear violation of the law. Also, truckers are supposed to use use hands-free mobile communication devices while operating a big truck, but not all of them do this. And even with hands-free devices, truckers can be distracted by outside communications.
Truck drivers actually face tougher rules for drunk driving than do drivers of passenger cars.
The legal limit for alcohol intake by truck drivers is a blood alcohol content, or BAC, of 0.04 percent. For passenger car drivers, the legal BAC limit is twice that, or 0.08 percent.
Truckers also must agree to random drug and alcohol testing throughout their employment.
As such rules show, drivers of big trucks have a greater responsibility given the dangerous nature of their large and heavy vehicles.
Truck Accident Statistics
Would you like more truck accident statistics to understand the nature and scope of the problem? If so, consider these:
According to Trucking Statistics, the U.S. has 15.5 million trucks, including 2 million tractor trailers, and more than 3.5 million truck drivers. Of those, only one out of every nine drivers is independent, or an owner-operator.
The other drivers largely are employed by the estimated 1.2 million truck companies in the U.S. Of those, only 3 percent operate more than 20 trucks.
The trucking industry produces annual revenues of an estimated $255.5 billion. Average annual income for a truck driver is only $32,000. You can see why a truck accident lawsuit should be directed at trucking lines and not individual drivers.
One person is killed in a truck accident every 16 minutes. Also, each year brings half a million truck accidents, according to estimates of the U.S. Department of Transportation.
In those truck accidents, about 5,000 persons die, and 98 percent of them are occupants of the smaller vehicles. Beyond that, large trucks also cause around 130,000 injuries in the U.S. each year.
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, Texas has more fatal truck accidents than any other state, with up to 550 deadly truck crashes in a single recent year. The state also has 32,000 miles of interstate highways.
Thanks to the Port of Houston and its fast-growing population, Houston is a major hub for trucking activity. That means there’s a higher chance for a truck accident injury in the Houston area. Large metropolitan areas such as Dallas and San Antonio also have a large number of truck accidents. Truck wrecks also occur more often on interstate highways.